name this city

A prison for the heart. The heart’s longings emerge squashed and distorted, in grimaces made inhuman by the sheer length of time they have been held in place: as if everyone you see there had spent their lives walking poorly-dressed into the wind and rain, which they have not. Hurt from the very beginning, the heart eats too many cakes. It deforms itself looking away from mirrors. It learns to ironise everything. At eighteen years old it has already collapsed like a senile face. You burst into tears on its behalf without knowing why. This city is no place for the heart, which therefore tries not to recognise itself in shop windows full of too-cheap clothes but keeps up a bright chat about its contact lenses, its colon & its high fibre diet. When the heart stares straight out at you here–as in children or lunatics–it’s a frightening, exhilarating experience.

A drawing of the town hall: the artist has subtly accentuated the portico, with its monolithic pillars and architrave, to make it seem menacing and gloomy. Old men sleep in the side doorways. There’s a blanket, a pile of dirty coats. Further on, outside the mall, someone is hosing down the pavement.

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5 responses to “name this city

  1. its right across the river from one of Stephen King’s after the evil boffos have rolled into town

  2. London, from the shards that I remember. ‘The City of the Human Heart’ (but they moved it, I don’t know where). Late-cycle Viriconium, perhaps, after a plague of lacewings or a sudden storm. Parts of Brisbane – a city, it has been claimed, that is “highly receptive to fabulation” – where ghosts of bread-thieves run the old windmill in the City at 3am, and black bats twice the size of a man’s heart swarm the night sky in the CBD, and especially on the suburban borders, where coutured androgynes sneer and cower, thrilled and terrified at lives unfathomably more jagged than their own. Also winter in Qirahan; where, they say, when one views them from the ceremonial balcony at the top of the Hippocampal Tower, both the River Neige and the Avenue of Magesties run the other way…

  3. Orfanum

    Saw the film ‘Caramel’ over the weekend, about, to my eyes and ears, people being able to leap out of the bucket of their own old hearts, or not. I wonder why we cannot face out hearts, but are always either scared or shy, as one hymn puts it, instead of ‘boldly approaching th’eternal throne’, of it, as it were, as another states. It’s easy to psychobabble your way out of this confrontation but how to maintain the heightened emotional state that allows you to own yourself?

  4. Martin

    New Orleans. Jerusalem. One you glimpse from the train after dark, where a 90s mews has been shoe-horned into that sodium-drenched space between the halal takeway and Homebase. Or Birmingham last Saturday, where Kerouac’s teletype roll manuscript of “On the Road” had fetched up at the university, a gleaming Underwood typewriter on display beside the twenty-foot glass case. The typewriter had a sign warning you not to touch it, too. The irony had made itself at home before you even noticed.

  5. I would say it was all cities and all towns. Any place people are clustered together in large enough groups that a stranger is perceived to hold more potential for malice than kindness. The drawing of the town hall that the artist has ‘made’ to seem menacing, makes me wonder if a city were completely emptied of people would all the menace disappear as well? But then if you were the only person left in an empty city it would probably become a prison of a different kind.